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Full text of "A story about a real man"

A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                    281
field tonight. Go quietly, without firing a shot, as if you
are Germans, and when you get near enough, charge in
among 'em, bang away with all your guns and turn every-
thing upside down before they know where they are; and
see to it that not a single bastard gets away.' This task
was given to my crowd and another battalion that was
put under my command. The rest of the outfit went on
towards Rostov.
"Well, we got into that airfield like a fox into a hen-
coop. You won't believe it, Alyosha, but we got right to
the German traffic regulators near the field. Nobody
stopped us—it was a foggy morning and they couldn't see
anything, they could only hear the sound of the engines
and the rattling of the tracks. They thought we were Ger-
mans. Then we let loose and went for them. It was fun,
I can tell you, Alyosha! The planes were lined up in rows.
We fired armour-piercing shells and each shot went
through half a dozen at least. But we saw that we couldn't
do the job that way, because the crews that had some
pluck began to start the engines. So we closed our hatches
and started to ram them in the tails. They were transport
planes, huge things, we couldn't reach their engines, so
we went for their tails, they couldn't fly without tails any
more than they could without engines. And that is where
I got laid out. I opened the hatch and popped my head out
to take a look round, and just then my tank ran into one of
the planes. A fragment of the wing hit me in the head, A
good thing my helmet softened the blow, else I would have
been a goner. Everything's all right now and I'll be leaving
the hospital soon and be among my tank boys again before
long. The real trouble is that in the hospital they shaved
my beard off. After all the trouble I took to grow it—it was
a fine, broad beard—they went and shaved it off without
the least pity. Well, to hell with the beard! We are moving
pretty fast now, but still, I think I'll be able to grow an-
other before the war's over, and hide my ugliness, I must
tell you, though, Alyosha, for some reason Anyuta has
taken a dislike to my beard and scolds me about it in
every letter."
It was a long letter. It was evident that Gvozdev had
written it to while away the tedium of hospital life. In-
cidentally, at the end of the letter he wrote that nea^r